Europe

Syrian president visits Christian orphanage on Christmas Day

Syrian President Bashar Assad has visited a Christian orphanage near the capital Damascus on Christmas Day.

Photographs posted on the Syrian presidency's Facebook page showed the president along with his wife, Asma, standing with nuns and orphans in the Damascus suburb of Sednaya.

In the northern city of Aleppo, Christians celebrated Christmas for the first time in four years with the country's largest city now under full control of government forces.

The rebel withdrawal from east Aleppo last week marked Assad's biggest victory since Syria's crisis began in 2011.

Christians, one of the largest religious minorities at about 10 percent of Syria's pre-war 23 million-strong population, have tried to stay on the sidelines of the conflict. However, the opposition's increasingly outspoken Islamism has kept many leaning toward Assad's government.